Tag Archives: Spoonerisms

Fun with Spoonerisms

I worked with the queen of Spoonerisms. She twisted words and letters, accidentally in her case, to create humorous phrases. For example, she told me, “I have my pinger on the fulse of the department.” Of course, she meant the idiom: “I have my finger on the pulse of the department.”

Spoonerisms—words or phrases in which letters or syllables get swapped—got their name from the Reverend W. A. Spooner (1844-1930), Dean of New College in Oxford, England. Apparently, he made these verbal slips:

fighting a liar

lighting a fire

You hissed my mystery lecture.

You missed my history lecture.

cattle ships and bruisers

battle ships and cruisers

a blushing crow

a crushing blow

nosy little cook

cozy little nook

our queer old dean

our dear old queen

We’ll have the hags flung out.

We’ll have the flags hung out.

You’ve tasted two worms.

You’ve wasted two terms.

a half-warm fish

a half-formed wish

Is the bean dizzy?

Is the dean busy?

 Shel Silverstein uses Spoonerims brilliantly in his rhymes, like in this stanza from his billy sook, Runny Babbit.

Runny Babbit lent to wunch
And heard the saitress way,
“We have some lovely stabbit rew—
Our Special for today.”

If used wisely, spoonerisms can be integrated into your writing, sparingly, to add unexpected humor to an otherwise dramatic scene:

Boy leans in for his first kiss, but the girl turns away. Disappointed and rattled, the boy says,“What’s the katter? Don’t you like misses?”

The list of spoonerisms is endless. Read more about them on this site: Fun With Words. Then consider having a character use one or two in your next work of fiction.


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